Mid-Winter Blues

So what do you do to battle the mid-winter blues? Do you sometimes find you need a good jumpstart to help get your homeschool back in full-swing again? Or maybe it's just that you need something a little different, some small change, to help combat the daily doldrums that can often set in to the infamous "routine rut". So what about grabbing a calendar and taking a random tour through history and literature together? At TeacherVision.com you can print off a 2010 Educator's Calendar. In the month of February alone you can recreate what Robinson Crusoe experienced, read about the Columbia Space Shuttle, discuss why the 15th amendment was written, and celebrate several famous birthdays together.

For the younger kids it's fun to celebrate Ground Hogs Day and experiment with shadows. Did you know on the 23rd of February (1896) the Tootsie Roll made its debut? Find a recipe and make some homemade Tootsie Rolls. Hershey's Chocolate was founded on the 9th in 1894. Check out the Hershey's on-line site.

February is another good month to continue those fun winter experiments and enjoying sports that are unique to that time of the year. It's a great time to teach survival skills, build snow forts and make snow ice cream! We also have the Winter Olympics coming up - what a great opportunity to teach some interesting pieces of history and enjoy supporting our country in physical athletics and good sportsmanship.

Two of our family favorites have been Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day both are on the 14th of February this year.

There are lots of activities on the internet that you can choose from to use to celebrate the coming of the Chinese New Year. We enjoy cooking a Chinese dinner, eating with chopsticks, and finishing off with the traditional fortune cookie. Let the kids go crazy decorating with Chinese lanterns, origami, and making Fish Kites.

The other is Valentine's Day. For the younger people in our life a fun little party of games, goodies, balloons and decorating sugar cookies seems to fill their little 'heart's desires. As the kids got a little older we added a next twist for our family at home. Instead of Valentine's sacks we make specially designed Valentine's boxes. We start the week ahead so that they can be finished by Valentine's Day. 
We have made our boxes replicas of ballet studio's, karate tournaments, a computer, bank, pyramid, etc. Sometimes it's been themed around a book they had just read. At any rate, the sky's the limit and it's always been fun to see each other's creations at the end of the week! The boxes are filled with a couple of goodies, homemade or store-bought cards, coupons or expressions of love/appreciation, or other surprises - like a fun pair of socks, chap stick or shower gel. We don't do too much; the creativity of the boxes is the main focus. Even mom and dad join in the fun.

We also have done secret acts of kindness/service: sometime's we draw names or just 'keep an eye out' for opportunities to do little acts of kindness to each other. When time and strength allow we bake up a few goodies and share with a few people in the neighborhood/ward. Each family member thinks about who they think could use a hug. We have taken around our special bags of brownies, Teddy Bear Hug Bread, homemade heart-shaped soaps, and on occasion our special "dinner date in a bag". That one was fun - one year we knew the new Bishop's wife was having a hard time having her husband gone so much and was really feeling lonely (Their children were already raised and gone). So we checked out the grocery meat counter and found two very inexpensive steaks, threw in a package salad, and 2 baker's and voila` you've got a perfect dinner date for two and they were thrilled! We did it in secret but made sure they knew it was from someone in the ward. The dinner cost us only around $6.

Another year we had 3 of our older children engaged at the same time. As Valentine's crept around, money was an problem to the young couples so we devised a plan. We told the kids to keep that night free and we borrowed card tables from friends and set them quite fancy including candlelight and soft music. The younger 2 were the chef and waitress. Our daughter put up a restaurant sign on the door and created menus and our son served up a wonderful, yet simple meal of Cordon Bleu, green salad, and dessert. We had Sparkling Cider for our drink and pie for dessert. We all dressed up special (yes mom and dad were included). It was a lovely evening and ended with us all enjoying the movie Lady and the Tramp. Our kids still talk about that magical evening! Our future son-in-laws were speechless and very touched about how much work we had gone to make the evening special for them.

February can be as exciting or simple as your time and energy allow. Just have fun and enjoy the journey through the long winter months. Happy February!